Friday, April 13, 2012

Big Bad Baseball Voodoo

Earlier this week, I was delighted to hear the Mets had turned back time and offered $2.50 ticket deals, not just on Wednesday afternoon for their 50th birthday, but Tuesday night as well. My awesome girlfriend took the N train from Astoria to the 7 and hopped off the Willets Point stop during Monday's thrilling win over the Nationals. She walked up to the ticket booth and before we knew it, we had just spent $10 on 4 baseball tickets in 2012.

I called my friend Adam Spiegel up, a fellow Tranquillity Camper and writer of music and musicals galore (check out his "Evil Barber Shop Quartet" Music Video here.) From Plainsboro, NJ (a suburb of Princeton) Adam has been a die-hard Mets fan for years, and naturally he is one of my first go-to's when I have extra tickets. Happy to hear he would be joining us, I then called another friend up, whose baseball fandom is hard to put a finger on.

That's a lightsaber, by the way
A theatrical gentlemen, Tim Bungeroth is somewhat of a baseball gypsy, with the only sports team he's truly married to being the Chicago Bears. He experienced the 90's Bulls team while on the North Side of the town, along with Kerry Wood and Sammy Sosa of the late '90's Cubs. Then, as he entered his teen years, his family moved to the woods outside Philadelphia and he became somewhat lost when it came to sports (outside of Da Bears.) He wasn't too thrilled with Philly, hated his high school and never latched onto any sports team within city limits, let alone a baseball team. He loves the game, however, and after meeting me in college he explored the sport like never before. He bought a Cubs hat when they were in the playoffs in 2003, screaming at the TV as the 8th inning of game 6 unraveled against the Marlins. He just couldn't seem to latch onto a team, never having truly embraced his new identity as a Philadelphian. In March of 2005, during college, I swear he bought around 5 different baseball caps, including the Red Sox, the White Sox and the Mets. All of a sudden, after a solo road trip in the White Sox cap back to Chicago, he had an epiphany, left his old world behind and finally embraced his Philadelphia home, buying a Phillies hat and enjoying himself some David Bell, Todd Pratt and Jason Michaels.

But die-hard he was not. Three years later, he moved to New York and subsequently to Brooklyn. He was thrilled when the Phillies won in 2008 but could care less when they lost in 2009. So, off he roamed in the valley of baseball, searching for the Major League team that would thrill his heart and soul.

He then came across a little place called Coney Island. Brooklyn, and Park Slope in particular, was the first place in his adult life where he felt at home, and if the Dodgers were still in the borough he would be a full-out Bum fan. He was thrilled, however, to find minor league baseball and the Cyclones in the place that he had taken to his bosom. He loved the theatrics and gimmickry of the minor leagues, and with the Mets in Queens and his heart in Brooklyn, The Brooklyn Cyclones were to be his baseball team.  When I tried to sell him on the fact that the Cyclones were the baby Mets and he should see that as a sign, he didn't take the bait. Tim loves the idea of the lower levels, and has turned that love into a comic book called Minor League Comics, about a farm system of super-villians fronting as an Outlaw Baseball League, of which I am a "baseball consultant."

Color and full issue coming Summer 2012

He has since moved to Sunnyside, Queens, off the 7 train, and looking for baseball inspiration, he decided he would be going to some Mets games this year (but not necessarily become a Mets fan. I tried, showing him some Mets Yearbooks from the 60's, 70's and 80's, which he thoroughly enjoyed even if I overdid the screenings, but it's not like he ran off and started a Converted Mets Fan Blog, if you know what I mean.) I found the $2.50 seat game a perfect opportunity to get Tim out to the Citi for the first time this year. Excited throughout the day to be venturing out for my 4th game in 5 played, my enthusiasm was tempered when I heard from Eddie Coleman on WFAN that David Wright had slightly fractured his right pinky. With Ike Davis getting the night off to collect himself after beginning the year with an O-fer, I rolled my eyes at the concept that Tim's first game of the year would have a less than regular line-up.

The four of us met at the Apple (with Tim wearing this Cyclones hat, without the New Era logo) and ventured inside for the second night game of the year, entering, as many do, through the Rotunda. We had some time to kill so we strolled around, taking in the baseball scenery that is the modern-day baseball park. I kept looking back at Tim, checking to see if this was it; if, regardless of his Chicago and Philadelphia roots, I had finally found a Major League home for the gypsy to settle. As he looked around, however, he uttered the words, "I think I'll root for the Nationals." Ugh.

We made our way to the top level with many empty seats for our choosing. Sitting in the lower upper deck a little to the right of home plate, Adam and I left Tim and my girlfriend to go get some beverages and food. As I was collecting my beer, I heard the crack of the bat and looked up to the big screen in the food area on top of the Rotunda to see Ian Desmond's home run fly over Jason Bay's head. I shook my own head, grabbed my beer and went back to the seats.

"You're bad baseball voodoo, Tim."

"That was hysterical."

"Bad baseball voodoo."

"Hey, I like that. That could be a great character."

On a cold, windy night, pieces of peanut shells from the walkway above flew onto us as if it were part of the weather.

"Tonight will be cold and windy with a chance of peanut shells."

In the bottom of the inning, the Mets got two on with none out, the run producers coming to the plate. Maybe Wright's absence wouldn't be felt so hard after all.

"How many outs are there?" Tim asked.


"Perfect. The Mets still have plenty of time to blow this one," he said, laughing.

Bad. Baseball. Voodoo.

With our hero from the night before up, we were all sure The Mets would at least tie this game. Daniel Murphy, however, uncharacteristically struck out. Up came the listless Jason Bay.

Could Jason come through, finally breaking out of his 2-year slump?

To the left of us, a Mets fan proclaimed, with no malice involved:

"Let's go, Bay. You suck, Bay."

We all found this "cheer" absolutely hysterical, quoting the fan the rest of the night.

Bay did what he has been doing best, getting under one and popping up to third. Duda then continued his cold start, striking out to leave two runners on.

Tim did a little voodoo dance and muttered some voodoo-verse underneath his breath, with a smile on his face the whole time (he is prone, in general, to mutter a little verse under his breath.) I'm a good sport, though, and I, having coined the "baseball voodoo" phrase, found this quite amusing.

In-between innings, with some pop music playing, Tim made an observation:

"The Mets should embrace their 60's roots."

"They are. They got rid of the shadow across their chest."

"I mean, they should be-"

"What? You mean play only 60's music?"

"Yeah, exactly."

"They can't only play that music. I love that music as much as you, but they're trying to bring in young fans as well. They can't do that only playing music from 1960-1970. Plus, the players are the ones who pick their walk-up music."

"True.....I'd root for the Mets if they always played that song."

"What? 'Meet the Mets?'"


"Maybe that can be arranged."

Dillon Gee settled down and pitched fairly well, while Ross Detwiler kept setting the Mets down in order.

Feeling cold, Tim recommended we take a trip to Dunkin' Donuts to grab some coffee. We took that suggestion and headed downstairs for a warm beverage. After collecting our tasty, flavorful cups a' joe, we headed to the left field stands where we hoped having our backs towards the wind we would be warmer. We tried to sit on the lower upper deck in an almost completely empty section, but a Met employee in a green jacket stopped us as we walked down through the emptiness:

"-Op, you guys got tickets?"

"Are you serious?"

"Of course I'm serious."

We went back to the corridor, and as we walked away, I ranted to the gentleman, "The place is completely empty. You'd think with how miserable the Mets have been the last few years they'd take care of us on an empty night!"

We found another empty section and with the man in the green jacket staring at us from across the way, we tipped our cups towards him. I understand they have a job to do and they have pressure from their supervisor to follow the rules, but on an empty night like that, kicking us out of a completely empty section is completely irrational, by their supervisors as well.

Ironically after that rant, the section we found was still rather chilly with the wind blowing in from the water, so we decided to venture to the seats we paid for in the first place. As we settled in to the rather warm section on the 3rd base side of the outfield, Dillon Gee lost his form, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda couldn't make plays, and Bobby Parnell reverted back to his old self, throwing the ball rather than pitching it. By the time the sixth inning was over, the Nationals had taken a 5-0 lead.

Tim was doing his voodoo dance.

In the bottom of the inning, for fandom purposes and to keep warm, I decided to be as loud as I could for the rest of the game, getting our entire section, though rather miniscule, to join in my "Let's Go Mets!" chant and, as far as I'm concerned, willing the Mets to 2 runs. If you were watching the game in the 7th, 8th and 9th inning, you could hear one man using his mega-phone lungs cheering, "Let's! Go! Mets!" That man was me. My girlfriend has gotten used to my loudness (to an extent), but Adam and Tim stood in the middle of us acting as a buffer between her ears and my volume. In the eighth inning, Adam and I began chanting, "Da-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da Daaaa.... DUDA!!!! DUDA!!!!!!" when he came to the plate, which you could also hear behind Gary and Ron. Fun times during a miserable Mets showing.

"We're staying the whole time, aren't we?" Tim asked.

"Of course we are."

I was yelling "LETS GO METS!!!" up until the last out, sure I could will the Mets to tie the game. The night was dragging on way past 10:00, and by now, Tim is chanting, "Let's. Get. Out."

Much to the chagrin of the Fool, Mike Baxter fouled a bunch of pitches off with Josh Thole on first, but alas, he eventually missed the final strike, throwing a "1" up into the loss column.

I decided to invite Tim to the Mets/Giants game next Friday, and, enjoying the match-up, he is taking me up on the invitation. His dad has always rooted for the team in whatever city he is currently living in, and the Giants are that team after he moved to San Francisco last year. The match-up, for Tim, is a chance to back his dad's squad and continue his gypsy identity as well. You might think I'm crazy for encouraging this voodoo, but Tim came with me to Mets/Phillies last year where we destroyed them 11-2. So, maybe there isn't anything to Tim being "Dr. Facilier."


That's so big, bad, baseball voodoo right there.

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